At this early stage in the race for the Republican nomination, Donald Trump has consolidated the support of slightly above half of his party, according to a newly released AWN poll conducted by SSRS. This highlights the former president’s potential path to a third nomination, while also highlighting the challenges his rivals will face in establishing their own bases of support over the next few months.
The Republican primary is still wide open. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to announce his candidature for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination in a conversation with Twitter owner Elon Musk on Wednesday night, just days after South Carolina Senator Tim Scott announced his candidature.
More over half (53%) of Republican and Republican-leaning primary voters have chosen Trump over DeSantis (26%). However, the survey also reveals that large segments of Republican voters are open to either candidate or others. Eight in ten Americans back Trump (84%), and eight in ten back DeSantis (85%), with smaller majorities backing or considering Nikki Haley (61%), Scott (60%) and former Vice President Mike Pence (54%) as well. Six percent of respondents named Haley and Pence as their top option, while Scott and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie each received two percent, and five other candidates received one percent or less.
Most of the likely electorate has already made their minds up on who they won’t be voting for in the primary, according to the survey. Sixty percent say they would never vote for Christie for the nomination, while 55 percent say they would never vote for either former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson or current New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu.
In contrast to AWN’s research from March, which found the two men about even, the current polling shows a significant lead for Trump in first-choice support over DeSantis. That shift supports the results of other recent national polling that show Trump gaining support.
Unlike in March, when Trump’s support was noticeably less among those older than 45 than among younger Republican-aligned voters, he currently appears to be leading DeSantis by equal margins among both age groups. Some relatively small groups of Republican and Republican-leaning voters continue to back the former president, but they aren’t enough to tip the scales in his favour. These groups include people who believe Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory was legitimate (27% of whom support him), white college graduates (38%), moderates and liberals (45%), and independents who lean towards the GOP (43%). Voters in those communities have not yet coalesced around an alternative to DeSantis, and he is polling below 30% with all of them.
While only 23% of voters identify as conservative, 34% of “very conservative” voters do, making them DeSantis’ most reliable voting bloc.
The majority of Republicans and Republicans-leaning people (52%) are confident that Trump will be the party’s nominee for president in 2020. Another 35% are cautiously optimistic, while only 13% are pessimistic. 71% of those who name Trump as their first choice in the primary say it’s at least extremely probable he’ll win, but only 30% of those who do not currently support him say the same.
Republican voters express satisfaction with the current crop of candidates.
Almost three-quarters (73%) of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters are at least somewhat satisfied with the present field of Republican candidates running for president. Only 7% are completely dissatisfied. That’s about how Republicans felt about their choices in July 2015, right after Trump got in the race, and about how Democrats feel about their own enormous primary field this June.
According to the most recent survey, 82% of Trump backers who list him as their top candidate are pleased with the current crop of candidates. Nearly eight in ten DeSantis backers are pleased with his performance. Only 47% of Republicans who are supporting other candidates or are undecided are either very or somewhat happy with their decisions.
On average, GOP-aligned voters said they’d be open to thinking about the prospect of voting for around 6 out of the 11 names tested, so there’s opportunity for the dynamics of the campaign to evolve in the coming months.
Even Trump’s most ardent backers may eventually abandon him. Among Trump supporters, 87% say they would also consider voting for DeSantis, 55% say they would consider Scott, 51% say they would consider Haley, and 50% say they would consider radio presenter Larry Elder if they were running for office. Even among those who don’t rank Trump as their top choice, the majority (66%) say they are open to the idea of voting for him. Only 16 percent of Republicans wouldn’t support Bush Sr. under any circumstances.
Republican voters who identify as moderates or liberals are 15% less likely than conservatives to express satisfaction with the current crop of Republican candidates. In addition, a sizable percentage of this demographic has already written off the two frontrunners: 31% say they wouldn’t even contemplate voting for DeSantis, and 26% say the same about Trump. Conservatives are much more likely to support either DeSantis (7%) or Trump (11%).
Among the pool of possible Republican voters, there are also areas of quite strong hostility to candidates. Among those who don’t believe Biden won the 2020 presidency fairly, 51% say they’d never vote for Pence, compared to 33% among those who do. And while only 10% of White voters without college degrees say they would never vote for Trump, 30% of White college grads say the same thing.
Republicans were asked a different question in which they may select up to three candidates about whom they were undecided but interested in learning more. That list was led by Scott (29%), DeSantis (28%), Haley (24%), and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy (24%). Trump was towards the bottom of the list, with only 7% of respondents interested in reading up on him.
Among Republicans, 77% of people have a positive opinion of Trump while only 18% have a negative one. George W. Bush, the former Republican president, has a much lower approval rating of 57%, with 29% having an unfavourable impression of him and the rest having no opinion at all. Trump’s core supporters had a significantly worse opinion of Bush than the rest of the party’s voters, by a margin of around 15 percentage points. The two Republican presidents still alive today enjoy relatively low approval ratings across the board in the United States. Only 43% of adults have a favourable opinion of Bush, while 37% have a positive opinion of Trump.
From May 17-20, 2018, SSRS surveyed 1,227 adults across the US using a probability-based panel, including 476 registered Republicans and independents who lean Republican. Both web-based and human-operated telephone interview methods were used for the surveys. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.7 points for the full sample, and plus or minus 5.8 points among Republican and Republican-leaning voters.